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4 Blocks
by Becky Tan

Once again Audi came through, not just as a generous supporter of the Berlinale, but with its own Audi Berlinale Lounge, right in front of the Berlinale Palast. Here, for 10 days from early afternoon to midnight, the general public could attend press discussions and music performances or relax with a coffee and watch the action below on the red carpet.

One exceptional discussion was with the actors and makers of 4 Blocks, a new six-part TV series, which premiered at the Berlinale. It features an Arab, Mafia-type clan and plays in the section of Berlin called Neukoeln. Ali Hamedy (Kida Khodr Ramadan) controls four blocks of Neukoeln but he is tired of this responsibility. He considers stepping down, but suddenly his brother-in-law is arrested and the responsibility for the extended family is on Ali’s shoulders. From there the story-line follows familiar drug mafia stories such as The Sopranos and was even inspired by the cartoon film Tom and Jerry.

Present for the discussion were: Kida Khodr Ramadan, Veysel Gelin (who plays Ali’s brother), Almila Bagriacik who plays Ali’s sister Amara, as well as director Marvin Bren and scriptwriter Richard Kropf. Caro Matzko was the moderator. The Berlinale has recognized the popularity of film series and has shown them on the Berlinale Special section for two years now.

Kida Ramadan was born 1976 in Lebanon into a Turkish-Lebanese family. At age five he and his family fled to Berlin, where he grew up and gradually became successful in German TV and film. He said that 4 Blocks did not reflect his own personal life. He was a refugee, never a gangster, in Berlin. In his circles, women receive the highest respect. He said, “My father worked for 50 years and he never had any idea how much money he had, because all financial issues were controlled by my mother.” Almila Bagriacik said that women are powerful in 4 Blocks; there is great respect for women, something which comes to the fore bit by bit. In her role as a sister, she blocks the system of her brothers who love each other but also want to kill each other. Richard Kropf said they visited a Frauenverein (women’s club) in order to learn enough to make it real. Director Bren said that the six installments were filmed in 50 days plus two weeks of rehearsal. Eighty percent of the cast were amateurs. He was looking for an actor to play Ali’s brother, someone who would be different from Ramadan; he considers himself lucky to have discovered Veysel Gelin, who originally comes from the German hiphop/rapper music scene. The whole team is open to the idea of sequels, if this should be successful.

The first six sections of 4 Blocks will premiere for the general public on TNT television, Monday, May 8, 21:00.